Posts Tagged ‘bluray’

King and Country (1964)

In 1963 Joseph Losey’s huge success with The Servant gave him carte blanche with his next project.

Since the following year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the First World War – an occasion celebrated by a landmark TV series of interviews with survivors – Losey took the opportunity to interrogate his perennial fascination with the British class system which resulted in one of the most raw and powerful anti-war films since ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.

To that end he enlisted Dirk Bogarde to represent the officers and Tom Courtney the common man who plays a sacrificial lamb akin to those in Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.

 During World War I, Courtenay is Hamp, a young soldier who deserts his post, attempting to escape the relentless guns and mud and walk home. Captain Hargreaves (Bogarde), an aristocratic British Army lawyer, must defend Hamp before the army tribunal, for whom the crime of desertion carries the threat of execution. Initially, Hargreaves approaches Hamp’s case with disdain; however, upon learning that Hamp volunteered for duty on a dare, that he is the sole survivor of his unit and that his wife has been unfaithful in his absence, his efforts on Hamp’s behalf become more impassioned and earnest. In the face of cold army bureaucracy, Hargreaves’s arguments fall on deaf ears as Hamp becomes a victim of morale-boosting on the eve of the troop’s deployment into an impending bloody battle.

Even by Losey’s standards King and Country is a relentless and harrowing experience. It proved to be his final black & white film and lost its entire tiny production costs. Losey career never completely recovered and in retrospect it can now be seen as the beginning of his decline. @RichardChatten

KING AND COUNTRY on Blu-Ray or DVD now.

I Am a Camera (1955)

Dir: Henry Cornelius | Cast: Julie Harris, Laurence Harvey, Shelley Winters, Ron Randell | drama, 108’

I Am A Camera is based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin and John Van Druten’s 1951 Broadway play adaptation but somehow never escapes the confines of the stage in this chamber piece evoking Weimar Berlin in the early 1930s. South African director Henry Cornelius travelled to Europe where he made five memorable features and this fourth one has Julie Harris as one of Broadway’s greatest nightclub chanteuses Sally Bowles who finds herself sharing a tiny room with Laurence Harvey’s Isherwood. John Collier’s waspish script certainly nails down the animated exchanges between the flatmates but is less successful in capturing the social and political zeitgeist of pre-war Berlin than the novel which although more authentic than the Oscar winning musical Cabaret (1972) will always eclipse it entertainment wise.

Bowles is a simpering, irrepressible diva down on her luck recalled by Isherwood (in voiceover) in the film’s Bloomsbury-set opening sequence at his book launch, with the action flashes back to a wintery 1931 Berlin where she charms the earnest and unsuspecting intellectual into a doomed arrangement, playing on his better nature and ultimately leaving him exasperated when his half-hearted attempt at seducing her goes pear-shaped: “A puritan all of a sudden, or just where I’m concerned”.

The film is most entertaining when Bowles drags the penniless Isherwood into a cocktail bar where they meet moneyed American Clive (Randell) and Patrick McGoohan’s hydro-therapist, although Shelley Winters and Anton Diffring are less convincing as the Jewish lovers Fritz and Natalia who are haunted by the growing threat of Nazism.

Obviously there are no allusions to Isherwood’s sexuality it being the 1950s, this is played as a purely platonic relationship where Isherwood (and the audience) is gradually more and more irritated by Bowles’s flirty behaviour. MT

OUT ON 23 MAY 2022 | Bluray, DVD and Digital



Prisoners of Ghostland (2021) Blu-ray

Dir.: Sion Sono; Cast: Nicholas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavates, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi, Charles Glover, Yazuka Nukaya; USA 2021, 103 min.

In his first English language feature Japanese director Sion Sono (Love Exposure) is still very much the enfant-terrible of today’s Japanese cinema with this wild visual extravaganza that sometimes loses the plot (by Aaron Henry and Sôhei Tanikawa). There are good bits and very bad bits. Nicholas Cage is – true to form- an OTT hero without a name – Ghostlands is a ride-and-a-half on the wild side.

Cage is first seen robbing a bank with Psycho (Cassavates), an enterprise that goes wrong and leaves Cage in prison and at the mercy of shady Governor (Moseley) of Samurai Town. letting Cage out of jail to liberate niece Bernice (Boutella) from Ghostland, wearing a suit which threatens to explode if he oversteps his time limit, and will blow up his testicles, if he makes a move with Bernice.

Ghostland is headed up by Enoch (Glover). Time has stood still since a convoy of dangerous prisoners collided with a transport of nuclear waste; Psycho being one of the victims. But Cage also recognises Bernice, whose mother he shot dead in the debacle following the bank robbery, injuring the child. Somehow the two escape and, with the help of Yasijiro (Sakaguchi), a samurai and young Susie (Nukaya), get rid of the Governor and his clique in a wild shootout with sword fights.

The Western meets the Samurai actioner and together they spawn a post-nuclear disaster movie with humans running around as Semi-Zombies clad in card-board. Cage lets fly, Boutella is underused, and in the end one no one gives a damn that nothing makes much sense. Sôkei Tanikawa’s excoriating images are wasted, as are the attempts of the audience to remember anything of the slightest importance after leaving the cinema. A void. AS


Buster Keaton | Blu-ray (1923-1927) ****

The celebration of Buster Keaton on Blu Ray continues with Eureka’s three film package of Our Hospitality, Go West and College. These features have been lovingly restored from the best film elements available. If you own their previous Keaton issues then this set is self-recommending.

I’ll begin with a masterpiece, Our Hospitality (1923). In this wonderfully charming and tender film (above) we have Keaton successfully integrating amusing set pieces (not merely clever gags) with a dramatically involving story. A family feud, with murderous consequences, is an old idea, ripe for comic exploitation: suspense being created in order to ward of bloodshed. Not only does Keaton achieve his reconciliation, through a brilliant inventiveness and tour de force timing, but films Our Hospitality‘s story, of the McKay’s v the Canfields, against the backcloth of a lyrically realised 1830s American South.

The film’s period charm is enhanced by sequences featuring a Stevenson’s Rocket train complete with stagecoach carriages. Like Keaton’s The General a train becomes a quirky character in its own right: watching it bravely travel over a rocky terrain proves irresistible. Two very funny incidents involve the shifting of the track to accommodate a wilful donkey, and the moment an old man pelts the train driver with stones, so that logs of wood are then thrown back and collected by the villager to be used as firewood. Halcyon days they maybe but vulnerable to interruptions.

In order to survive Keaton mustn’t leave the house – the Canfield’s code of Southern hospitality says they will not kill a McKay whilst indoors. At one point Keaton has to dress like a woman, run out the building and create a decoy by dressing a horse in his discarded clothes. A superbly paced comic rythm is established as McKay desperately flits in and out of the Canfield home and although guns are fired a lot in the film no one gets injured.

At the end when peace is achieved and the Canfield’s lay down their pistols, it turns out the victimised McKay was carrying an armoury far bigger than their own. Keaton’s most dangerous moment actually occurs attempting to rescue the Canfield’s daughter (played by Natalie Talmadge, Keaton’s wife) from rapids flowing into a waterfall. Keaton does it with such poetic skill – and not a stunt man on the set!

Although Go West (1925) never achieves the sublimity of Our Hospitality this is a lovely film: captivating, surreal and even flirting with sentimentality. That last objective is much more Chaplin than Keaton territory – David Robinson (Chaplin’s great biographer) noted that Keaton’s friendship with a steer named Browneyes, recalls the tramp and flower girl affection in City Lights. “Do you need any Cowboys today?” asks the forlorn New Yorker named Friendless (Keaton) to the ranch owner. A classic inter-title question that gets him the job. Of course the city slicker does everything wrong but finds consolation with Browneyes.

Apparently Keaton was disappointed with the film because he couldn’t get the cows to stampede through the town fast enough in the final scenes. Keaton does manage to evoke both their docility and action to splendid surreal effect. I love how the steer stroll into department stores, lumber into a barbers and agitate the local police force. And I can’t help thinking that Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or (with its dead donkeys over a piano) wasn’t influenced by Keaton’s Go West. Bunuel’s on record as adoring Keaton’s filmmaking. Of Keaton’s expression he said it was “as unpretentious as a bottle.’

Of course the clown-bottle genius never smiled. In College (1927) Keaton puts himself through so much physical effort trying to prove his athletic prowess to the students (and his girl) that you almost want him to break into the relief of smiling: then as a boatswain he eventually triumphs – the irony of the film is that in reality Keaton was arguably the most athletic of the silent comedians.

College has some excellent gags and as in Our Hospitality and Go West Keaton is revealed as a master of framing and deployment of space. However the film doesn’t have a coherent structure, being more a succession of incidents that are deftly, but routinely orchestrated. A very different but more rewarding college silent movie is Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman. Lloyd’s breezy personality is more at home in this

I could have reviewed this entertaining boxset just by describing in great detail the wealth of gags. But words would fail me. Here we have a genius on the road to perfection; Keaton’s first fully fledged expression of greatness. With his deep impassive countenance, Keaton orchestrates his antics while remaining acutely aware of his commanding presence as the world implodes around him, knowing that, philosophically at least, he will always rise stoically above every threat and misfortune. ALAN PRICE 2020.


A Matter of Life and Death (1946) | New 4k Restoration | Poetry

Dir: Michael Powell | Writer: Emeric Pressburger | Cast: David Niven, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Abraham Sofaer, Robert Coote, Joan Maude, Kathleen Byron, Bonar Colleano, Richard Attenborough | UK / Fantasy / 104min

Although by general consensus it is now accorded the status of a classic, it actually took quite a while for this beautiful and unique film to be considered as such. Lindsay Anderson at the time actually used it as his yardstick for mediocrity when he despaired in ‘Sequence’ of audiences that “allow themselves to be diverted by A Matter of Life and Death, but confess themselves too lazy for Ivan the Terrible“, while as recently as 1973 it had been dismissed by Angela & Elkan Allan in ‘The Sunday Times Guide to Movies on Television’ as “[e]xtravagantly awful… told not as a comedy, but as a serious, ludicrous drama”.

Matter-870When it first appeared plenty of critics grumbled at its lack of realism, although director Michael Powell himself took great satisfaction in the fact that everything in the film was psychologically explicable as a hallucination on the part of the hero, Peter Carter (engaging played by a young David Niven). The light-hearted backdrop of fantasy, however, made palatable the graphic depiction of the violent death of two of the film’s characters (we first see Bob Trubshawe [Robert Coote] looking very realistically dead with his eyes open), since within the context of the film’s narrative they are both soon depicted jauntily bounding back to life, when in reality at the film’s conclusion they would both have been very much dead, and remained so for all eternity.

 Under the baton of maestro Michael Powell, A Matter of Life and Death is an enormously satisfying exercise in organisation, with the many components that make up  a feature film – Emeric Pressburger’s literate script, the enthusiastic performances by a uniformly fine cast, Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor photography, Allan Gray’s music, Alfred Junge’s production design, Reginald Mills’ editing and so on – smoothly coalescing into a sublime whole, which Powell himself prided himself on making it all look so easy, when it had been anything but.  It was typically audacious that the film chose at so early to reverse the convention already emerging in cinematic fantasy by depicting real life in Technicolor and Heaven in black & white. The transitions are smoothly organised, although some took exception at Marius Goring’s line – breaching the fourth wall – that “One is starved for Technicolor up zere…!”  Depicting Heaven in black & white was perceived by Raymond Durgnat as satirising the welfare state, and in an odd little book published in 1947 called ‘The World is My Cinema’ E.W. & M.M. Robson heaped page upon page of abuse on the heads of Powell & Pressburger accusing them of being unpatriotic fascist sympathisers (although it’s worth noting that nobody from the Axis Powers is anywhere to be seen, the Chief Recorder is a woman (Joan Maude) and The Judge is played by an Asian actor [Abraham Sofaer]).

matter-4A remarkable amount of Britain’s imperial dirty linen indeed receives a very public airing during the heavenly tribunal (including a laugh-out-loud moment depicting the introduction of an Irish juror in standard IRA uniform of trilby and trenchcoat) led Richard Winnington of the News Chronicle to suppose it was there just for “American box-office purposes”, which ironically attests to the artfulness with which Powell & Pressburger’s company The Archers had camouflaged their propaganda, since the whole reason for the film’s existence had been a request from the Ministry of Information to make a film stressing Anglo-American friendship (relations between the Allies were becoming strained even before Germany surrendered). Anyone else would have simply obliged with a conventional romance between a Brit and a Yank, but The Archers didn’t do conventional, and only they would erect such a formidable edifice to get their message across.

It’s hard to imagine any other national cinema or filmmakers combining such technical and philosophical ambition with such boundless exuberance in its telling. The whole film looks so extraordinary, it’s easy not to notice the skilful use of sound throughout – from the hollow, echoing acoustics of the opening scene narrated by John Longden taking us on a tour of outer space, through the ominously ticking clock in the control room at the air base, to Allan Gray’s exquisite and atmospheric score, his last for an Archers production.

A Matter of Life and Death represents both the culmination and conclusion of The Archers’ first phase, since as their later productions became more ornate they in the process lost much of the gusto and graceful good humour which had characterised their earlier productions. ©RChatten

The film also inspired Alan Price to compose this poem:


No one has ever dramatised a brain seizure like you guys. 

An airman hallucinating on earth and its WW2 ‘heaven.’ 

Pilot Peter Carter, so English a fighting poet. One moment 

in a three-strip Technicolor village, the next on a staircase 

to a monochrome beyond. Blaze of aircraft crashing down. 

A beach. Her cycling. You meet; grab the falling handlebars, 

embrace and kiss. Not some visionary sight of a nether world. 

Nor a surgeon spying the street with his camera obscura. 

Nor the French messenger who lost his head. Nor the smell 

of fried onions can change my mind: the idea of a sacrifice

for love. June got her man. Peter got his woman. Emeric and 

you Michael got the film you wanted. AMOLAD determined 

my fantasy after-life. I was born premature three years later: 

taken out of my pram; nurtured in a cinema, entranced by 

black & white pearls with the option for wide screen rainbows. 

Hovering betwixt and between, knowing I’d never starve.


The Woman in Black (1989) **** Blu-ray

Dir: Herbert Wise | Cast: Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, Pauline Moran, David Ryall, Clare Holman | UK Horror Thriller, 100′

Originally made for TV and screening on Christmas Eve 1989, Herbert Wise directed this well made and effective thriller that takes us back to the Gothic tradition of storytelling in a Victorian ghost fantasy based on Susan Hill’s original 1983 novel. The Woman in Black follows the same formula as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, minus the blood-sucking Count who is replaced by an equally menacing woman in black, and the boxes of earth by a trunk full of evil trappings.

On the request of his crusty old boss young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Adrian Rawlins) travels from London to the North Eastern coastal town of Crythin Gifford, and out across the eerie salt marshes to attend the funeral of a friendless old widow, Alice Drablow. During the church service a be-hatted, black-robed woman appears to be watching Arthur Kidd from a distance and reappears on the marshes later that day, her face set in a ghastly grimace.

Wise’s film is chockfull of ghastly horror tropes. The wind moans and gulls screech as Kipps makes his way in the swirling mists to Eel Marsh House, only to discover a mournful legacy of untimely death and ghostly appearances in this miserable corner of Victorian England. A talented British cast includes Bernhard Hepton who plays a kindly professional Sam Toovey a sort of Devil’s advocate in explaining away the terrifying sounds and occurrences. The other locals are a sceptical bunch. And no one can explain how a ball comes to be bouncing and a little boy’s voice greets Kipps laughingly in a room that has apparently been locked since Alice’s death. Not to mention a recurring sound of a carriage crashing amid blood-curdling screams outside the house. All this has been recorded on a phonograph by Mrs Drablow herself. Meanwhile, Kipps seems to be losing his mind – not surprisingly. And things don’t improve when he returns to London, freaked out by the whole affair which continues to haunt him in the film’s shocking finale. Made in the late 1980s this reliable horror story  still has an undeniable kick thanks to Wise’s able direction. MT
The worldwide Blu-ray debut of The Woman in Black is available exclusively from the Network website on 10 August 

Wake in Fright (1971) ****

image004 copyDir: Ted Kotcheff | Writer: Evan Jones, based on the novel by Kenneth Cook

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson | DoP: Brian West | 108min   Drama

The maverick and multi-talented filmmaker Ted Kotcheff grew up in a Macedonian community in Toronto, eventually becoming the youngest drama director in the country at only 24. Working extensively for theatre and TV, his well-known series ‘Play for Today’ and ‘Afternoon Theatre’ became household names.  His features have become cult classics from Life at the Top with Jean Simmons and Honour Blackman; Golden Bear winner: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) that launched the career of Richard Dreyfus to Uncommon Valor, considered one of the greatest dramas about the Vietnam war. First Blood defined the Rambo series and his North Dallas Forty is considered to be one of the best sports films ever made. Turning his hand to successful comedies: Fun With Dick and Jane and Weekend at Bernie’s, Kotcheff has also been behind the popular ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ for the past 12 years.


His second feature, Wake In Fright, screened to massive critical acclaim at Cannes in 1971, whereafter it did very poor box office internationally: a not unusual occurrence – Rome, Open City (also re-launching this week), was also unsuccessful on its first release. But Wake In Fright is considered by many to be one of the best Australian films ever made, revitalising the flagging film scene and ushering in the Australian New Wave movement and Ozploitation movies (low budget horror, comedy or action), along with others that wandered into the same cinematic territory: the Barrie McKenzie series, Mad Max 1 & 2, and Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout.

Based on a book by Kenneth Cook, Kotcheff opens with a 360-degree pan of the isolated sun-baked wilderness of the outback establishing the de-humanising environment into which our protagonist John Grant wanders when he fetches up in the Australian mining town of Yabba on his way to Sydney for the Christmas holidays.  Played by the impossibly good-looking Gary Bond, he’s a dapper and fresh-faced young intellectual. But when he comes across the local bobby Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) in a bar, he ends up on a drunker bender, gambling away his earnings in the hope of winning enough to leave the job he hates in a dead-end location.  Up on the money, he retires to bed, then making the classic mistake of returning to the gambling game. And so begins his descent into a nightmarish hell, isolated from civilisation, in the back of beyond with a collection of raucous locals.

Grant emerges a malleable, weak-willed man who dislikes the people he comes across but is unable to extricate himself from their company or show any restraint in dealing with them. Serving as a parable for the Innocent’s descent into Hell, Wake in Fright perpetuates the theory that men will turn into monsters given sufficient alcohol, testosterone and bad company. And the Yabba is a place where you can murder, rape and kill but it’s a criminal offence not to hang with the boys; and once you spend time here the law of the jungle prevails.


Forcing themselves onto Grant’s urbane gentility, the locals ply him with drink and inane banter which he parries with good grace and without restraint until he becomes a lightweight creature of scorn. These are men who slaughter animals for fun and undermine women. After his skinful on the first night, Grant then encounters Tim Hynes, a local ‘businessman’ who invites him to stay in his ranch.  His daughter Janette (Sylvia Kay in a gracefully alluring turn), has also been forced to her knees emotionally after years of disdain from the local menfolk. Donald Pleasence plays a flippant, roguish doctor, struck-off in Sydney and now in the Yabba to ply his trade to the initiated and uncaring.  Of all the characters, Dr Tydon and Janette are probably the most well-matched, occasionally ‘friends with benefits’; Dr Tydon is a sexually ambiguous character. He’s also the most psychopathic and least red-necked local, but there’s a hard-edged sinister quality hiding behind his glib charm and well-manicured hands. Kotcheff remains completely neutral to his characters, observing their antics dispassionately and giving us space to be disgusted or pitiful at Grant’s fate and introducing an element of realism into the drama. But it’s difficult not to be sickened by the unrelenting depravity which peaks during an horrific night-time foray where they indulge in kangaroos shoot-out from their jeep, in a set piece which remains seared into the memory.

Although Wake in Fright is not classified as a horror film as such, the narrative contains elements of horror in its sinister build-up. There are no moments of explicit terror; just an unrelenting stream of offence that gradually has a corrosive effect on the psyche and soon the long-cherished idea of Aussie manhood and camaraderie is shot down and exposed for what is ultimately is: a  lame excuse for wanton brutality and mayhem. By the end of the film, nobody emerges unscathed by the events or worthy of our sympathy and so this becomes a drama entirely fraught with antagonists, leaving us desperate to find some kind of redemption where none exists, putting this on a par with John Boorman’s Deliverance or Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch: quite an achievement given its low budget, lack of stylistic effects or any real bankable stars apart from Donald Pleasance, who shines out with his richly-crafted portrait of Dr Tydon.  Wake in Fright is a chilling but universal portrait of a civilised man who falls victim to a community he holds in contempt. MT


KOTCHEFF ON THE KANGEROO FOOTAGE: “I loved the kangaroos. I spent a lot of time with them, intimately close: they would lie around my director’s chair, waiting, like extras to be asked to do something. They are the most anthropomorphic creatures I have ever encountered. Nothing on earth would persuade me to hurt them or any other animal for any reason whatsoever.”

Cosh Boy (1953) ***

Dir: Lewis Gilbert | Cast: James Kenney; Joan Collins; Betty Ann Davies; Hermione Baddeley, Bob Stevens Robert Ayres | UK Crime Drama

Lewis Gilbert’s searing slice of British neo realism sees a juvenile delinquent commit a swathe of brutal robberies on innocent victims, aided and abetted by his rather puny sidekicks. Cosh Boy was a tamer, noirish version of what was to follow teenage crime-wise with Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Alan Clarke’s Scum (1979). And although it all seems fairly quaint nowadays, the film scandalised audiences back in post war days when kids mostly respected their parents and were glad of a return to normality after the war, despite the simmering social tensions provoked by the years of privation.

Roy (Kenney) is a brash, chain-smoking thug who bullies his friends into subservience (including Rene, played by a luminous young Joan Collins). He and his gang are not died in the wool criminals but possess a certain hard-nosed opportunism, and things get increasingly dangerous when their behaviour escalates, with tragic consequences.

Best known for his more upbeat fare: Alfie and The Spy Who Loved Me, Gilbert’s punchy direction certainly gives the crime drama some gritty wellie, providing an acerbic and sinister portrait of the backstreets of South London, although the film was actually shot at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith W6.

On 20 January 2020, Cosh Boy will become the 40threlease in the BFI Flipside series, released in a Dual Format Edition with extras including short films by Lewis Gilbert and more. It will be launched with a special screening event and discussion with Flipside founders at BFI Southbank – details below.

Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray/DVD), release on 20 January 2020, with simultaneous BFI Player, iTunes and Amazon Prime release

Flipside at 40 – Special event & discussion, Wednesday 15 January, 18:30, NFT1 at BFI Southbank – special guest actor Caroline Munro


Femmes Fatales of Fashion | London Fashion Week 2021

The sinister crime-laden dramas that came out of post war Hollywood were the visual expressions of anxiety. Film Noir featured venal antiheroes, mysterious femme fatales, and rain-soaked urban settings where shadows and intrigue played upon the inner consciousness. The tightly scripted stories were also richly thematic, compellingly seductive and wonderful to look at. And that iconic look was often created by women designers. 

Based on hard-edged detective stories from the likes of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Cornell Woolrich, ‘Crime Noir’ was spiced up by the wartime influx of sophisticated European craftsman such as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Jacques Tourneur and Robert Siodmak whose edgy expressionism and Avantgarde lighting techniques added zest to the predominantly black & white post war genre. 

By the mid 1940s Film Noir reigned supreme. Nightly screenings – and each night was different – saw the stars of the day strutting their stuff but also looking amazing into the bargain: Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogarde, Gene Tierney and June Vincent all had their particular allure. And some Noir actors also directed the genre such as The Big Combo‘s Cornel Wilde with Storm Fear (1955). But while the narratives were unsavoury the costumes were quite the opposite: the elegant couture, hairstyles and even jewellery made style icons of these scheming antiheroes, adding charisma to their public profiles in stark contrast to the characters they played. By association, film noir became arguably the most strikingly seductive genre in the film firmament.   

But while the filmmakers arrived from Europe, the costume designers were often American woman with noirish backstories of their own to the bring to the party. Universal’s head of costume design for twenty years VERA WEST (1898-1947), met a tragic death drowning in her own swimming pool, dressed in one of her signature silk dressing gowns (ironically her designs for Virginia Grey had the been the star turn in Charles Barton’s film-noir Smooth as Silk the previous year ). Although the evidence pointed towards suicide as a result of a troubled past, there have since been rumours that her husband was to blame.

West had trained in Philadelphia and worked as apprentice to the pioneering British catwalk designer Lady Duff Gordon (Lucile) before being hired by Stanley Kubrick to create Ava Gardner’s look in The Killers (1946). She also designed for June Vincent in Roy William Neill’s Black Angel (1946); for Teresa Wright in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and the outfits for Lewis D Collins’ Danger Woman (1946). Despite these high-profile commissions, she never received an award until finally winning the Costume Designers Guild Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Another female Hollywood designer shrouded in intrigue was IRENE LENZ GIBBONS – known simply as Irene (1900-1962), whose private life was as colourful as her gowns. A shrewd business woman she ran a series of boutiques and was also appointed head of costume design at MGM, replacing the well-known legend Adrian. Her Noir credentials included couture for Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum in Vincente Minnelli’s Undercurrent (1946) based on a story by Thelma Shrabel.

She also was credited for the couture creations in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) where a married Lana Turner and her lover plan to kill her husband (Cecil Kellaway). Other Noir and thriller projects included Roy Rowland’s Scene of the Crime (1949) and Gaslight (1944). Reports of her long-standing love affair with Gary Cooper were never confirmed but she committed suicide after slashing her wrists and jumping out of Los Angeles’ Knickerbocker Hotel a year after his death. 

One of the most successful female designers of film noir was undoubtedly BONNIE CASHIN (1915-2000). Cashin was already making dresses from the age of 8. By 16 her talent was making her a living as designer for the chorus line based in Los Angeles which led her into theatre work in New York. Returning West in the early 1940s she signed with 20th Century Fox where she made a name for herself with the gowns in Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944) and Fallen Angel (1945); Robert Siodmak’s Cry of the City (1948) – Shelley Winter’s leopard skin coat would have the activists up in arms, but back then it certainly made her stand out in the sleazy night scenes.

Cashin’s style worked wonders for Signe Hasso in Hathaway’s Oscar-winning The House on 92nd Street (1944) and for Gene Tierney in Laura. Nightmare Alley (1947) gave her the opportunity to work with a leading cast of Tyrone Power (as antihero Stan Carlyle), Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray and Helen Walker. Power’s untimely death of a heart attack aged 44, saw the film gain wider circulation over the years due to his popularity, and Cashin’s costumes lived on into the late 1950s and beyond. MT

London Fashion Week 2021

LAURA is now on Bluray courtesy of EUREKA (MASTERS OF CINEMA) 

Kaleidoscope **** DVD Bluray

Dir.: Rupert Jones; Cast: Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Cecilia Noble; UK 2016, 100 min.

Debut director/writer Rupert Jones has crafted a sublime psychological thriller, enhanced by yet another standout performance from (his brother) Toby Jones as the tortured anti-hero.

Set in a large London Housing Estate, Carl (Jones) lives in a pokey 1970s style flat after being released from prison the year before. One morning Carl wakes up, and finds the body of a young woman he vaguely remembers as Abby (Mathews), in his bathroom. He seems to recall how they ending up dancing together before he possibly locked her in the bathroom. The stairs outside his flat become a kaleidoscope, strangling him in always new twits and turns. The police show up, and so does a helpful neighbour, Monique (Noble). Toby is convinced that he has done something wrong – but can’t work out exactly what or why. When his mother Aileen (Reid) invites herself over – very much against his will – images of Abbey and Aileen co-mingle, Toby certainly suffers from displacement activity – a repressed guilt complex, which will revealed in the final reel.

This is 10 Rililngton Place meets Kafka’s The Trial: Jones even looks spookily very much like Richard Attenborough as the murderous landlord. The grimy atmosphere in the flat is another parallel – but whilst Attenborough’s John Christie was sheer evil, Carl is suffering from a trauma. He is hectically trying to cover up the traces of whatever he might have done; objects, he wants to destroy or find, becoming his enemies. Carl is paralysed, whenever he meets authority, be it the police, or his boss at the garden centre. His anxiety increases the longer his mother stays in his flat, and when she reveals that’s she has bone cancer and wants to spend a lottery win on a last family visit to Canada with him, Carl is close to breaking point.

Let’s just be clear over one thing, and director Jones underlines it – “Kaleidoscope is a psychological thriller, a tragedy, but not a horror feature”. The score, using a harp concerto by the German/American composer Albert Zabel, really intensifies Carl’s desperate state of mind.  There are also echoes here of Bernhard Hermann’s score for Hitchcock’s Vertigo: But whilst Scottie was suffering from Vertigo (and love sickness), Carl is haunted by a past, that remains partly an enigma. DoP Philipp Blaubach (Hush) creates elliptical camera movements, showing Carl permanently fleeing from himself, whilst the long tracking shots mark him like a hunted animal. Overall, Jones has made the most of his limited budget, avoiding any gore, and staying consistently within the parameters of unsettling psychological drama. AS

On DVD/BD release 23 September 2019

In Bruges (2008)

Dir: Martin McDonagh | Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Clemence Poesy | Irish/UK Drama

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much and so continuously as watching In Bruges. The sheer outrageousness of it all is enough to raise a smile whenever you think back to it. Although Woody Allen’s All Time Crooks and most of his other comedies certainly beat it on wisecracks and clever dialogue, Martin McDonagh’s script epitomises the sheer pissed-offness of a couple of sweary Dublin hitmen who fetch up in the Belgian town after failing abysmally to bring off a job set for them by their ridiculously snarling boss Ralph Fiennes (as Harry) – playing out of character – in his finest comedy hour.

There’s nothing to be proud of in the sweary humour but it’s infectiously funny for most of the film’s running time. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play Ray and Ken, who have been ordered to lie low after the fiasco – in Bruges. Shoot the breeze, enjoy the architecture and wander round generally taking in the atmosphere. To makes matters worse they are to share a tiny, twin room in a B&B – but milling about just isn’t their style, it queers their pitch and generally leaves them back-footed, appalled at themselves and each other, the whole situation is ludicrous, and they moan and rant as they mooch about aimlessly, quite out of place in this quaint, romantic hideaway where everyone else is enjoying themselves. Not them.

Martin McDonagh’s directs with easy aplomb. Farrell explodes when a man with an American accent complains about their cigarette smoke – although smoking was still quite legal at the time, in Bruges. Farrell then meets sexy single girl Poesy, and the story reaches a natural, successful conclusion. A real one-off, but a memorable one where everyone rises to the occasion. MT


The Incident (1967) **** Bluray release

Dir: Larry Peerce | Cast: Martin Sheen, Tony Musante, Beau Bridges, Thelma Ritter | US Thriller

Larry Peerce’s raw and intense urban tension thriller offers a snapshot of 1967 New York City in all its seedy, black-and-white glory, The Incident also features an iconic 60s cast that must be seen to be believed. Martin Sheen makes his feature film debut as one of two small-time hoods – the other is Tony Musante (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) in one of his earliest roles – terrorising a subway car full of trapped passengers, portrayed by an ensemble cast including Thelma Ritter (Rear Window), Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys), Ed McMahon, Donna Mills (Play Misty for Me), Jack Gilford (Save the Tiger), Brock Peters (To Kill a Mockingbird), Ruby Dee (A Raisin in the Sun), and a host of other instantly recognisable faces from NYC films and television of the era.

After mugging an old man for a few dollars, thugs Artie (Sheen) and Joe (Musante) hop a subway deep in the Bronx, and proceed to threaten and intimidate the Sunday night commuters all the way to Times Square. The terrified riders are a mixed group – an elderly Jewish couple, a family trying to protect their 5-year-old daughter, an alcoholic, two teens on a date, two military Privates, a bigoted African-American man and his wife, etc. – but they are united by their fear and sense of helplessness as switchblade-wielding Joe and Artie block the subway doors from opening at stops, and prevent the riders from leaving. Will any of them have the courage to confront the two maniacs?

A high-velocity “home invasion”-styled hostage drama on rails, The Incident is a NYC transit suspense film that precedes the better-known The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by seven years. When director Larry Peerce (Goodbye, Columbus) and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld (Young Frankenstein) were denied permission to shoot in the NYC subways, they did it anyway, using concealed cameras for some footage, providing a gritty time capsule of the 60s Big Apple as it begins to rot. Review courtesy of Eureka.

WORLDWIDE DEBUT on Blu-ray in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range from 12 August 2019 | Eureka Store



I Was Monty’s Double (1958) **** Blu-ray release

Dir: John Guillermin | Script: Bryan Forbes | Cast: M E Clifton Jones, John Mills, Maureen Connell, Cecil Parker, Patrick Allen, Leslie Philips, Barbara Hicks, Sidney James, John Le Mesurier, Marius Goring, Michael Hordern | War Drama | UK 101′

During the war years doubles often served as decoys to divert the enemy away from the main action. One such doppelgänger was ME Clifton-James whose striking resemblance to General Montgomery made him the ideal candidate to impersonate him during a special assignment in North Africa with D-Day fast approaching at the end of the Second World War. And he really is terrific in the role, successfully drawing German troops away from Normandy and becoming both a hero and a major military target.

The riveting real story has been amusingly adapted for the screen by Bryn Forbes providing the drama for John Guillermin’s entertaining caper which stars his wife Peggy and a top-tier array of British talent from the era including a chipper John Mills, Leslie Philips (looking rather pleased with himself), John Le Mesurier (playing it rather severely against type), Michael Hordern and even Marius Goring. I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE is smart, astute and pacy as it powers along convincingly in Basil Emmott’s slick black and white camerawork. As Clifton James prepares for his role of a lifetime there’s never a dull moment both in the tensely conspiratorial interior scenes and on the widescreen – with some terrific set pieces such as the landing in Gibraltar and North Africa. Guillermin’s eclectic career path would see him directing Orson Welles in the 1966 mystery thriller House of Cards and Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno (1974). MT


Woman in the Window (1944) **** Blu-ray release

Dir: Fritz Lang | Wri: Nunnally Johnson | Cast: Edward G Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey | US Film Noir 107′

One of legendary director Fritz Lang‘s first noir films, The Woman in the Window is also rightfully considered one of the most important examples of the genre, a landmark movie that became one of the initial representations of noir first singled out by French critics after WWII. A triumph for Lang, legendary writer/producer Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath), and leading man Edward G. Robinson (shedding his earlier gangster roles to portray a love-struck obsessive), the mysterious melodrama remains a classic American nail-biter.

Johnson’s loose adaptation of J H Wallis’ novel Once Off Guard sees Robinson as Richard Wanley, a successful psychiatrist biding his time while his wife and children are on vacation. Lamenting the loss of his salad days, along with his drinking pals Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea, he is surprised and delighted to be picked up in the street by a foxy femme fatale in the shape of Alice (an alluring Joan Bennett dressed by Vogue illustrator and couturier Muriel King), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the subject of a portrait he had just admired in a gallery window. When Richard and Alice retire to her home, her wealthy, jealous boyfriend intrudes, and is killed after a struggle. Alice convinces Richard to cover up the crime, but as Richard’s district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) investigates and the boyfriend’s bodyguard (Dan Duryea) begins to apply pressure to Richard, the walls begin to close in…

With a darkly drôle climax years ahead of its time, The Woman in the Window is suspenseful film noir at its most seductive, elegantly captured and lit by Milton Krasner (who would go on to win the Oscar for Three Coins in a Fountain in 1955), the thriller also serves as an excellent companion piece to the following year’s Scarlet Street, which reunited Lang with Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea in strikingly similar roles.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (Masters of Cinema) | 20 May 2019 




How I Won the War (1967) *** Blu-ray release

Dir: Richard Lester | Writer: Charles Wood | Cast: John Lennon, Roy Kinnear, Michael Crawford, Michael Hordern, Jack MacGowran | UK Comedy 109′

In 1967 John Lennon took a break from the band and travelled down to Almeria in Southern Spain where he still managed to write the lyrics for Strawberry Fields Forever while starring in Richard Lester’s surreal comedy. Aside from its merits, the film was always going to be a talking point and would ultimately become a cult classic and one of the most appealing anti-war satires. Based on Patrick Ryan’s book, Charles Wood’s script sends up the British Army in a way that is both harmless and enjoyable.

John Lennon exudes an easy charisma as the bespectacled Private Gripweed, eclipsing Michael Crawford in his role as the incompetent Lieutenant Goodbody leading his troupe of hapless soldiers into active service in Europe and North Africa during the Second World War. Roy Kinnear, Michael Hordern and Jack MacGowran complete the wonderfully witty and watchable cast. MacGowran also polished off another dark comedy role that year starring in Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers. Lester’s direction often misfires but in a way that is retrospectively endearing given the nostalgic nature of the subject matter – cricket. A lovely, amusing walk down memory lane. MT



November (2017) ****

Dir/Writer: Rainer Sarnet | Cast: Rea Lest, Jorgen Liik, Arvo Kukumagi, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Dieter Laser, Jette Loona Hermanis | Fantasy Horror | 115′

Rainer Sarnet’s wickedly weird adaptation of an Estonian folklore infused fairy tale is flawed but enthralling and full of magic moments of ethereal black&white beauty.

This is a film that wears its Baltic credentials proudly on its delicate fashioned sleeve – set in the deepest, creepiest snowbound forest in a remote region it features the Devil, ghosts and all kinds of mysterious and often mischievious characters. Adapted from Andrus Kivirahk’s best-seller ‘Rehepapp’, NOVEMBER is an endlessly fascinating film that has you gawping in terror and disbelief despite its rather enigmatic narrative that scratches at the edges of horror, fantasy and dark comedy. At it’s core NOVEMBER is a love story based on the premise of human survival in hard times.

The inhabitants of a distant Estonian village desperately eek out a living in frosty and threadbare poverty. The fantasy element strikes fearfully from the opening sequence that pictures a spiky mechanical creature flies through the air and into a stable where a slumbering calf is transfixed with fear as the creature, called a ‘Kratt’, lassoos it with a sturdy steel chain, transporting it through the night sky and into the barn of a nearby farm. And this is how the inhabitants survive by robbing and cheating each other with their supernatural robotic aids.

In this legendary land of dour and often demonic doings where characters often come back from the dead to join the living, young Liina (Rea Lest) is hoping to marry her sweetheart Hans (Jorgen Liik) while desperately avoiding the clutches of a gruesome farmer. Meanwhile Hans is in thrall to a newcomer to the village in the shape of a gorgeous German baroness (Jette Loona Hermanis), whose beauty is unrivalled and unsullied by hardship. But there’s a secret going on with both these women, and caught in a love triangle, they seek out magical ways to capture the hearts of the one the desire.

The only criticism here is that NOVEMBER is chockfull of strange and outlandish characters that fail to serve the central narrative robbing the drama of much of its delicious tension and often detracting from Sarnet’s dark humour. There’s simple too much going on. But Jacaszek sinister score provides just the right note of chilling concern to keep us waiting, and fearing that there may not be a happy ending. NOVEMBER is an arthouse gem that begs to be seen, along with Sarnet’s 2011 adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. MT 




Shakespeare Wallah (1965) **** Bluray

Dir.: James Ivory; Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Felicity Kendall, Madhur Jaffrey, Geoffrey Kendall, Laura Liddell, Jennifer Kapoor; India 1965, 115 min.

This is the second feature of writer/director James Ivory and producer Merchant Ivory, co-scripted by the latter’s wife Ruth Prawar Jhabvala; the trio would go on with opulent productions like Heat and Dust and Howard’s End, describing the fate of strong women in male-dominated, authoritarian societies.

This is about change and belonging: The Buckingham parents Tony (G. Kendall) and Carla (Liddell) tour India with a travelling group of players, including their daughter Lizzie (F. Kendall),  bringing Shakespeare to a country changed beyond belief after the British left for home. But the change is not only a cultural one; Indians are saying goodbye to their own heritage in a post-colonial era that replaced Shakespeare with Bollywood and old palaces of Maharajas with hotels. Lizzie, who plays Ophelia and Desdemona on stage, falls for Indian playboy Sanju (Kapoor), who also has a mistress: Bollywood actress Manjula (Jaffrey). While the Buckinghams and their plays become more and more tacky, Manjula represents a modern India, which is aggressively taking the place of the old – be it Indian or British. Manjula commits a faux-pas on purpose: she arrives at the theatre with only ten minutes of Othello to go. But the nomadic players have no recourse, they are redundant in a country where they don’t belong any more. They are rootless, like Ruth Wilcox in Howard’s End. “Everything is different when you belong to a place. When it’s yours’, says Carla Buckingham wistfully. Her daughter has never set foot on her “home” country.

Kendall’s and Lidell’s experience with their own touring company have been an inspiration for the feature, stage and reality overlap. When Tony (as Othello) talks endlessly to himself, before facing Desdemona for a last time and in the real world, Manjura enters with aplomb. Finally, with Feste’s song in “Twelfth Night”, the “rain raineth”everything away, it becomes not only a summing up for the play, but the fate of the actors, swept away by history.

The misty black and white images express the evocative fragility of the narrative, there is much to admire, apart from the acting – Madhur Jaffrey would win the Prize for Best Actress at Berlin Film Festival in 1965. The score is by none less than Satyajit Ray. His long-time collaborator, DoP Subrata Mitra, conjures up sensitive images of a  group of Thespians who are lost, languidly suffering a maudlin nightmare. Ironically, Shashi Kapoor’s marriage to Felicity Kendall’s sister Jennifer (who made an uncredited appearance) was one of long-lasting happiness until her death aged 50. AS



Cujo (1983) *** Bluray release

Dir: Lewis Teague | US Horror 88′

A loveable family pet becomes a ferocious killer in this terrifying cult horror outing from Lewis Teague. Atmospherically adapted for the big screen from Stephen King’s novel, the film sees parallel’s between wounded male pride and a rabid St Bernard who turns on its family after being bitten near their pleasant suburban home in California. In the meantime, the dog’s owner has gone off to lick his own wounds having discovered his wife’s affair. Who knows why dogs get such a bag time in small independent films. Whenever a dog appears, it is almost certain to have a tragic ending, and this is certainly the case for the titular St Bernard Cujo who is all friendly and bushy-tailed in the opening scenes and gradually descends into a raving monster after sticking his head into a bat cave. Ironically, a we feel pity for the dog rather than the family – had Teague picked a pit-bull or a Rottweiler things may have worked out entirely differently, and perhaps this was the reason for the film’s poor box office. That said, Teague pulls out all the stops on the terror front, keeping the bloodied mother and child trapped in a car being menaced by the angry dog for most of the film’s mileage. MT

Making its UK debut on Blu-ray on 15 April 2019 , with over 7 hours of extra content, Eureka Classics on a special Limited Two-Disc Blu-ray Edition, featuring a Limited Edition Hardbound Slipcase, with artwork designed by Graham Humphreys, a Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet and Bonus Blu-ray disc [4000 units ONLY].



Sink the Bismarck (1960) **** Bluray release

Dir: Lewis Gilbert | Cast: Kenneth Moore, Dana Wynter, Carl Mohner, Laurence Naismith | UK, Wartime Drama 97′

British post-war cinema was fraught with films depicting how we triumphed with our Allies. And one of the most successful and stylish was this 1960 epic featuring actual combat footage. Lewis Gilbert bases his spectacular action thriller on real events that took place when British warships set off to eliminate the pride of the German fleet, the Bismarck, in the North Atlantic. Kenneth Moore is the star turn as the British naval officer tasked with leading the 1940s mission, and putting duty first when still recovering from his wife’s death in an air raid. Sink the Bismarck depicts the human story behind the war effort, showing respect for the enemy, and commemorating the courage of our own brave soldiers, and the unsung ‘backroom heroes.’ This thrilling and authentic adventure drama also features the cruiser HMS Belfast (now preserved on the Thames in London) which was used to depict the cruisers involved in Bismarck’s pursuit. MT

Schindler’s List (1993) *****

Dir: Steven Spielberg | Writer: Steven Zaillian | Cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Embeth Davidz, Caroline Goodall | US Biopic Drama, 195′

Based on a novel by Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s List is possibly Spielberg’s most noble arthouse classic, and certainly as memorable as Jaws. In German-occupied Poland, 1939, an opportunistic German businessman turns humanitarian hero by saving his Jewish workforce of some 1100 after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans. Certainly this was Liam Neeson’s finest hour in the lead role of Oskar Schindler. Nothing he has done since has quite reached the heady heights of his break-taking performance as the Czech factory owner, who ends up penniless. The grainy camerawork gives an immediacy to the tragedy of brutal, casual slaughter of innocents. Kingsley, too, is tremendous as Stern, the crafty accountant; and would go on to better things, as would Fiennes as Goeth, the steely leader of Plaszow camp. Spielberg’s direction is masterful in bringing clarity to the incomprehensible darkness of the Holocaust unfolding bleakly in this black and white chronicle of wartime wickedness. Crucially, Schindler’s List brought the Holocaust to younger, mainstream audiences, many of whom would witness for the first time the grim fate of victimised Jews, and would be shocked to the core, Janusz Kaminski’s images seared to the memory. MT


The Boys in the Band (1970) **** Bluray release

WDir: William Friedkin | Writer: Mart Crowley | Drama  | 118’

Fifty years ago, this milestone in Queer cinema The Boys in the Band was considered highly controversial, although in retrospect it’s seems rather quaint with Mart Crowley’s priceless dialogue making it all worthwhile (apart from the groundbreaking use of the C-word), particularly Leonard Frey’s Harold gets some caustic remarks.

William Friedkin would go on to make The French Connection a year later, and The Exorcist just after that (in 1973) but this is a beast of another colour and sees a group of gay men grow increasingly antagonistic after enjoying an alcohol fuelled party in a spacious Upper East Side apartment, especially after Harold arrives.

Based on Crowley’s play, and featuring the original cast, it stars a sterling selection of gay actors Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Cliff Gorman and, of course, Leonard Frey. The play premiered off-Broadway in 1968, just as the gay rights movement was gaining momentum and aimed to portray a candid view gay life, although it sparked mixed reactions amongst the gay community for its negative stereotyping of limp-wristed and bitchy victims of their sexuality. William Friedkin’s faithful 1970 screen version, has become a cult classic. But when all is said and done, LGBTQ equality has pathed the way to a better acceptance of what went before, and the piece can now be appreciated for it depiction of an oppressed group of any kind, and is by turns brutally amusing, compelling and dark.

The film plays out as a chamber piece echoing its original scale. Led by the single Michael (Nelson), a Catholic alcoholic from Mississippi and set in his ostentatious bachelor pad. Michael is throwing a birthday party for his difficult friend Harold (Frey), who eventually turns up high, with a brilliantly bombastic monologue: “What I am, Michael, is a 32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy — and if it takes me a while to pull myself together and if I smoke a little grass before I can get up the nerve to show this face to the world, it’s nobody’s goddamn business but my own.”

Other guests include Donald (Combs), Michael’s ex who comes back to NY to visit his shrink.  Hank (Luckinbill) is a bisexual teacher  (Tuc Watkins), who’s now with photographer Larry (Prentice) although the relationship is strained by Larry’s promiscuity. Bernard (Reuben Greene) is the token black guy and seems the most brooding of the group. Into the party drops Michael’s straight college friend Alan (Peter White), who is on the verge of tears over his own failing marriage. His reluctance to leave nods to an ambivalence in his own sexuality, and hints that he might be hiding an uncomfortable truth from himself.

According to Friedkin, this was “one of the few films I’ve made that I can still watch”. Released 50 years after its Broadway debut – a year before the infamous Stonewall Riots – The Boys in the Band still has the power to shock. MT

NOW ON BLURAY FROM 11 FEBRUARY 2019 with interviews with Mark Gatiss, and commentary from William Friedkin himself | COURTESY OF SECOND SIGHT 


3 Films in praise of Julien Duvivier

Julien Duvivier (1896-1967) was a prominent French film director largely active between 1930-1960 and best known for his early silent films and thrillers such as Pépé Le MokoLa Bandera, Life dances on, and Marianne de ma Jeunesse. He began life as an actor but after a disaster on stage, he moved on to write and direct, later relating the incident in his 1939 film La fin du Jour, with Michel Simon playing his character.

After working for Andre Antoine at Gaumont, Duvivier directed his first film in 1919. His early work was often religious in nature: La Tragédie de Lourdes, and La Vie Miraculeuse de Thérèse Martin which explored the Carmelite saint Thérèse de Liseux. Gaining experience with seminal French directors Marcel l’Herbier and Louis Feuillade, his first successful drama David Golder (1931) was a rags to riches story of an ambitious Polish Jew who falls foul of his wife. In 1934 Duvivier began a collaboration with Jean Gabin that would see them working together in The Imposter (1944), Pépé Le Moko, and La Belle Equipe (They Were Five). Like his countryman Jacques Tourneur, Duvivier moved to Hollywood and enjoyed the experience working with Charles Boyer, Edward G Robinson, Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power. But like Tourneur he eventually went back to France where he often cast Fernandel, Alain Delon, George Sanders and Michel Simon in his dramas.

Revered by legends such as Ingmar Bergman and Jean Renoir, Duvivier is still one of the greatest figures in the history of French cinema and possibly the most neglected, due to the uneven yet thematically varied nature of his work. Critic Michael Atkinson sees the poetic realist pioneer as “a victim of auteurism, ignored for generations by critics who saw…his output as the work of an able journeyman without signature or invention,” Duvivier, Atkinson argues compellingly, “rarely let a dull or unevocative shot pass through his camera,” and his films “fairly leap and swoon with visual cogency, surprising compositional drama, and a quintessentially French embrace of narrative life, equal parts funeral and fete.” Despite all this, his best films are stellar and treasured by cinefiles all over the world. He died in a car crash in 1967.

Julien Duvivier taps into post-war France’s paranoia in PANIQUE (1944), a long unavailable thriller, adapted from a Georges Simenon novel. Proud, eccentric and anti-social, Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon) has always kept to himself. But after the body of a woman turns up in the Paris suburb where he lives, he feels drawn to a pretty young newcomer to town (Viviane Romance), discovers his neighbours are only too ready to be suspicious of him, and is framed for the murder. Duvivier’s first outing after his return to France from Hollywood, sees the acclaimed poetic realist applying his consummate craft to darker, moodier ends. Led by two deeply nuanced performances, the tensely noirish Panique exposes the dangers of the knives-out mob mentality, delivering a pointed allegory of the behaviour of Duvivier’s countrymen during the war.


But Julien Duvivier’s 1956 thriller DEADLIER THAN THE MALE  (Voici les temps des Assassins) somehow manages to outdo them all when it comes to violent women in film Noir: Catherine (Delorme) is the daughter of the drug depending Gabrielle (Bogaert), and tries to escape from the milieu by marrying the restaurant owner Andre Chatelin (Gabin), who has divorced her mother. Telling him that Gabrielle is dead, the scheming Catherine succeeds in marrying the much older man, who soon learns that his wife is lying about her mother. He more or less imprisons her with her mother Antoinette (Bert), also a restaurant owner, who kills her chicken with a whip – which she also uses on Catherine. The frightened woman asks Andre’s friend, the student Gerard (Blain), to kill her husband, but when he refuses, she kills him. Her end – by the fangs of a particular vicious animal – is particularly gruesome. Again, the images of Armand Thirad are undeserving of this blatant ideology.


The notorious Pépé LE MOKO (Jean Gabin, in a truly iconic performance) plunges into the gangster underworld as a wanted man: women long for him, rivals hope to destroy him, and the law is breathing down his neck at every turn. On the lam in the labyrinthine Casbah of Algiers, Pépé is safe from the clutches of the police–until a Parisian playgirl compels him to risk his life and leave its confines once and for all. One of the most influential films of the 20th century and a landmark of French poetic realism, Julien Duvivier’s Pépé le moko is presented here in its full-length version. AVAILABLE FROM CRITERION COLLECTION | Amazon Prime










Three Monkeys (2008) ****

Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Cast: Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Ahmet Rifat Sungar, Ercan Kesal | Thriller, Turkey 109′

Three Monkeys is a visual metaphor for anxiety and suspicion, a moody reflection on family guilt after a tragedy under the glowering skies of Istanbul. Three Monkeys is a masterpiece in stylish visual storytelling. Writing with his wife Ebru, Ceylan keeps his plot and narrative ambiguous to focus on an atmosphere seething with angst ridden doubt. His characters make spurious assumptions that eventually lead to their undoing.

The plot is brilliantly simple yet loaded with potential for emotional meltdown: under a cloud of dismay and financial hardship, Eyup and Hacer live in a modest flat overlooking the Bosphorus with their aimless son Ismail, whose brother has recently died. One dark night Eyup’s politically ambitious boss Servet hits a pedestrian on a lonely road. Eyup agrees to take the rap – a short stay in prison – for a chunk of money that will repay a debt he owes his father. While Eyup is away, the feckless Ismail buys a car with part of the money to secure a job as a driving instructor. Hacer then falls for Servet who decides to repay Eyup in full, including the amount Ismail has spent on the car. But Eyup regards his largesse with suspicion and soon puts two and two together.

The sheer intensity of Three Monkeys is captivating – keeping us in thrall as the four main characters gradually unravel in a way that is rare in modern cinema, invigorated by Gokhan Tiryaki’s vibrant images and stunning performances from Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan and Ahmet Sungar whose facial expressions convey all we need to know and more. A simple tragedy leads to a constantly changing dynamic between the central characters who are poisoned by a self-seeking outsider. Pure cinematic joy that deservedly won Ceylan Best Director at Cannes 2008. MT



The Deer Hunter (1978 *** Bluray release

Dir: Michael Cimino | US War Thriller | 183′

Another great film of the Seventies and one of the most salient on the futility of war, this was undoubtedly Michael Cimino’s masterpiece.  The lives of three Pennsylvanian steelworkers are changed forever when they sign up as volunteers for Vietnam. Patriotic and poignant, THE DEER HUNTER is underpinned by a terrific cast and two towering performances from Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken – one a victorious hero, the other a tragic victim of the hostilities and of life in general. This rich character epic portrays how men can be tested by the worst of circumstances and can survive or fail. Magnificent both as a moral tale and a soaring testament to community and comradeship, the Nietzschean saga is not for the feint of heart, nor those lacking in viewing stamina – it runs for over three emotionally gruelling hours. MT



Breakheart Pass (1975) *** | Dual format release

Dir Tom Gries | Writer: Alistair Maclean | Cast Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Richard Crenna | US | 95’

With shades of Narrow Margin to its locomotive setting BREAKHEART PASS is a Western murder mystery that takes place on a stream train at the height of the frontier era, starring Charles Bronson and based on Alistair Maclean’s bestselling novel, who also wrote the script.

Bronson plays an undercover agent who is hotly pursuing a murderous gang during an perilous journey to a remote Army post across hostile wintery terrain featuring marauding Native Indians and some brutal action sequences. None of these men can be trusted to post a letter and moll Jill Ireland realises this, but she can’t be trusted either – at least, not on the romantic front, and ends up switching partners during the action. With a rousing score by Jerry Goldsmith and some magnificent set pieces – including one where a entire train careers full length into a ravine – this is a roadie Western with plenty of thrilling twists up its snow-covered sleeve. MT


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